Birds Don't Sing Before a Storm

Chapter 4

I woke up when someone opened my door and walked in. I was going to get upset until Lane drew back the sheet and grinned down at me. He announced cheerfully, “Mom told me to come get you. You’re missing breakfast.”

I sat up and rubbed my eyes. “What time is it?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “But if you want something to eat, you better get in the kitchen before Rodney and Curtis eat everything.”

I told Lane, “I’m not hungry.” I had no sooner said the words when my stomach let out a growl. Lane heard it and giggled.

“Liar,” he laughed. He grabbed my hand and attempted to pull me from the bed. “Come on.”

I lifted off the bed and sat on the side beside Lane. There was a noticeable bulge in my underwear which didn’t go unnoticed by Lane. He giggled as he looked down. “Someone’s got a woody,” he sang out.

“Like you don’t get them,” I laughed as I pulled the sheet over my lap.

“All the time,” he giggled. “I even get them in school.” He looked at me worriedly. “Are you supposed to get woodies in school?”

I reached out and rustled his brown hair. “You’re what? Twelve? Thirteen?”

“Almost thirteen,” he announced proudly.

“At thirteen your pecker stays hard,” I laughed.

“Good,” he replied. “I thought something was wrong with it.” I laughed when he reached down and pressed on his erection.

I stood and stretched. “I gotta take a shower,” I said as he stared at my crotch.

He looked up into my face. “What about breakfast?”

“Maybe I’ll eat later when everyone has left,” I replied. He followed me out of the room and I watched him skip across the room and bound up the staircase.

I liked Lane. Even though he said everyone called him Skipper, I decided I was going to call him by his real name. Skipper sounded more like something you’d call your pet dog.

I also felt something may be wrong with him. Even though he said he was thirteen, he acted more like a child. However, it was that childishness that I found endearing. He seemed so innocent, and it was as if he looked at the world through a different set of lenses than the rest of us. I’d only gotten a glimpse of his brothers, but I was sure they would be nothing like Lane. If first impressions are right, then I was sure I wouldn’t like them at all.

After showering, I pulled back the shower curtain and Lane was sitting once again on the toilet waiting for me. He had a tray of food in his lap. He grinned as he stared at me. “I brought you something to eat,” he announced cheerfully as he held up the tray. “There wasn’t too much left after Rodney and Curtis got done eating.” There appeared to be a half portion of eggs, two thin slices of bacon and a half slice of toast. It looked like Lane had smothered the toast in grape jam.

I wrapped the towel around me and headed back to my room with Lane following closely behind. When I sat on the edge of the bed, he put the tray in my lap. He watched as I hungrily devoured the food.

He giggled, “I thought you weren’t hungry?”

“Thought I wasn’t,” I replied as I handed him back the tray. “Aren’t you supposed to be in school or something?”

“Mom tells me when I gotta go,” he said, “and she hasn’t told me yet.” He looked at me expectantly. “You wanna walk me to school?”

He seemed so hopeful, I didn’t have the courage to tell him no. “Sure,” I replied. What don’t you take that tray to the kitchen and then come get me when you’re ready to go.”

“Oh boy!” He squealed happily. He jumped up and almost dropped the tray. “I’ll go tell Mom you’re going to walk me to school.” He hurried from the room and seconds later I chuckled when heard him calling out his mother’s name as he ran up the stairs.

Minutes later, Karen appeared at the bedroom door and asked politely, “May I come in?” She entered when I nodded my head.

She sat down on the edge of the bed beside me. “I know you’re here under very difficult circumstances,” she began. “I know you’re bitter at your father because you think he deserted you several years ago.”

“I don’t think that,” I responded bitterly. “He did desert us.” She reached out to pat my hand, but I quickly pulled it away.

“That’s for another day,” she said. “Your father is at work now, but he wants to talk to you when he comes home tonight. He would have talked to you last night, but you seemed understandably upset.” She waited for me to say something, but I didn’t.

Her voice became a little more cheerful. “Skipper says you want to walk him to school.”

“You mean Lane?” I responded as I attempted to correct her.

She smiled warmly. “He said you wanted to call him Lane. Perhaps it’s time we dropped that dreaded nickname.”

“Perhaps,” I answered snidely. “Makes him sound like a puppy.”

“You’re right,” she agreed. She looked over worriedly at me. “There is something you should also know about Skip... I mean Lane.”


“He’s a normal boy in many respects,” she replied, “but he also has many problems.”

She seemed on the verge of tears as I asked, “Like what?”

“There’s a lot of different words for it,” she stated, “but it basically comes down to he has a learning disability.” I nodded my head and waited for her to explain.

“He develops more slowly than other boys his age,” she said. “In fact, his teachers say his mental age is about six or seven.”

“I gathered that much,” I replied. “He says he’s in special classes at school.”

“Yes,” she said. “They work very hard with him, but he still has problems learning. He understands things when you tell him, but his reading and writing skills are low.” She let out a deep sigh, “In fact, they are almost non-existent. He knows some simple sight words, but that’s about all.”

Attempting to lighten the mood, I said, “But he seems like a great kid.”

“Oh he is,” she said happily. “He’s a great boy.” Her smile quickly faded. “But he has almost no friends. Boys his age won’t have anything to do with him, and he’s too old to play with the younger kids.”

I asked, “What about his brothers?”

She shook her head sadly. “They have very little to do with him. Both of them are athletic and into sports. Lane goes to the same school as they do, and let’s just say they find him...embarrassing.”

I could feel my anger beginning to surge. I hadn’t even met them, and I already knew I wouldn’t like them. Lane was a great kid, and they had no reason to shun him as their mother was implying.

Just then we heard Lane jumping down the stairs. Karen reached out and squeezed my hand. “Don’t tell Lane we had this little talk. He likes you, I can tell.” I nodded my head just as he came bouncing into the room.

“Ready?” He asked as he tugged on the blue book bag with an image of Spiderman on the front.

He grinned when I stood and said, “Sure, Little Man.” He grabbed my hand and held it as we followed Karen through the living room and up the stairs.

She kissed Lane on the forehead, and then she thanked me for walking him to school. I told her it was no problem, and we headed off down the sidewalk. It was my first real chance to see where my father lived. It was a beautiful residential area. Since it was late spring, I saw several people mowing their yards. Lane waved to them, and they gave him a hearty good morning. I guess they were used to seeing him trek to school each morning.

Two blocks away, he pointed to a large ranch home. “That’s where Mr. Goodwin lives,” he said with an angry tone. “He’s strange.”

I was surprised by Lane’s sudden change in attitude. It was the first time I’d seen him get upset. I inquired suspiciously, “Why’s he strange?”

Lane responded angrily, “He tried to touch my willy last year?”

I pulled him off to the side behind a large tree. Grabbing his shoulders, I asked, “What do you mean he tried to touch your willy?”

“I was coming home from school,” explained Lane, “and he invited me inside his house for some lemonade.” His eyes lit up, and he said, “He’s got a lot of Star Trek things in a bedroom.”

“Wait,” I said. I didn’t want him to lose his attention on what he’d been talking about. “Tell me about Mr. Goodwin touching your willy.”

“Oh, yeah,” he replied. Again, his mood became somber. “I was hold Chewbaka, and he tried to touch my willy.” Lane put his hands in front of his pants and rubbed himself. “Like this,” he explained.

“What did you do?”

He stated proudly, “I told him he wasn’t being a very nice man, and I left.”

“Good for you,” I replied as I put my arm around his shoulder. “It’s wrong for someone to try and touch your willy without your permission.” I squeezed him tighter. “You let me know if he tries it again.”

“I will,” he replied. I looked back at the house where Mr. Goodwin lived. Once I got settled in, I planned to come back and have a nice little talk with him.

Lane insisted that I walk him to his class. I was surprised to find that he was attending a high school- probably the same one I would attend. My father hadn’t yet discussed it yet, but I was sure he would insist that I finish my education. Besides, if I didn’t go to school, I would have to get a job, and I wasn’t ready yet for that.

“Come on,” said Lane as he grabbed my hand and pulled me down the hall. “I want you to meet Mrs. Chambers. She’s my teacher.” He led me to the second floor. The halls were crowded, and many students stared at us. I guess they thought we were holding hands.

We went into a classroom, and Lane pulled me over to a young woman. She was very pretty and dressed more stylish than the teachers I had in my old school. She smiled when she saw Lane, and she leaned down and gave him a hug. “There’s my Lane,” she said as she looked up at me. She stood and asked, “And who are you?”

Lane immediately piped up and said cheerfully, “Casey is my new brother.”

Mrs. Chambers stepped back and eyed me suspiciously. “Your new brother?”

“Yes, Ma’am,” replied Lane. “Mom told me last night Casey was going to be my new brother.”

I laughed and tried to explain. “My father is Lane’s stepfather. I’m here visiting for a little while.”

“I see,” she said. “Are you planning to enroll in school here?”

“I suppose,” I replied. “At least until I can return home.”

Lane looked up sadly at me. “You’re not going to be my new big brother?” For a minute, I thought he might cry.

He giggled when I ruffled his hair. “I’ll always be your big brother.” Mrs. Chambers told Lane to take a seat while she escorted me to the door.

“Well, Casey,” she said as I started to leave. “I don’t know how much you know about Lane, but he seems to be very attached to you already.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” I smiled as I looked at Lane as he talked to a couple of classmates. “He’s a special kind of guy.”

“Yes, he is,” she replied as she looked over at him. “Yes, he is.”

I left his room and wandered around the halls. The school was large, but I was used to a big building. It was about the size of the one I’d left. As I walked past one room, a teacher was standing at the door. He was tall, and he appeared rather young to be a teacher. He seemed popular because all the students entering his room spoke cheerfully to him.

He smiled as I approached. “Good morning,” he said. I nodded and started to walk away. He stepped over and put his hand on my shoulder. “Wait a minute.” I started to bat his hand away, but his smile told me he was no threat.

He was about my size, and his hair was blond in a buzz cut. He had beautiful blue eyes. I tried not to stare into his face because I was afraid he might notice that I was enamored by his good looks. “I’ve never seen you around,” he said. “Are you a new student?”

“No, Sir,” I replied as I took a step back so that he would remove his hand from my shoulder.

He asked, “Then why are you in the building?”

“Oh,” I stammered. I didn’t want him to think that I was trespassing. “I probably will be going to school here in a few days. I haven’t registered yet.”

“I see,” he said smilingly. He thrust out his hand to me. “I’m Mr. Wentworth. I teach junior English. Will you be registering as a junior?”

He smiled again when I replied, “Yes, Sir.”

“Good,” he said. “I’m also the assistant baseball coach.” I became embarrassed when his eyes scanned my body. “Did you play baseball at your former school?”

I shook my head and responded, “No, Sir.” I had never been interested in playing sports. I enjoyed watching football and basketball on ESPN, but I never considered participating in school. I had a basketball hoop on the garage at home, but I rarely played. Baseball never interested me. I found it boring.

He grinned as he scanned my body again. “Maybe I can talk you into it. You’ve got the physique of a player.” He took my hand and examined it. I wanted to pull it away, but I didn’t. I just watched as he held it and looked at it. “You’ve got the hands of a pitcher.” He looked into my face and smiled. “We’re looking for a pitcher. Our starting pitcher graduated last year.”

Just then, the bell rang. Several students went rushing past us. He laughed when two boys scurried into his room. “What is your name?” he asked as he turned to go into his room.

“Casey Barrett.”

“Casey Barrett,” he replied as if he was trying to remember my name. “I hope to talk to you in a few days.” I stood and watched as he entered his room.” I laughed when he shouted out, “Marshall and Sizemore, you were late to class. Get on the ground and give me twenty five.”

After leaving school, I returned to my father’s house. No one was home, so I walked around. So far, I’d only really seen the family room. The living room looked like it had never been used. Everything was neat and organized. The centerpiece of the room was a large, stone fireplace. The gray stone practically covered an entire wall. Two striped sofas and a circular coffee table were situated in front of it. A couple of chairs were against the wall. Blue was the predominate color, with a pale blue carpet and darker blue drapes. Most of the accents were also blue. The room looked as if it came out of a designer magazine.

The kitchen was surprisingly small compared to the rest of the house. It appeared cluttered, but yet it still seemed organized. Since I loved to cook, it seemed like Karen had arranged things so that they would be easily available. I loved the hanger over the oven that contained her pots, pans and skillets. At home, I had to bang around inside a cupboard until I found the utensil I needed.

Dirty dishes were still in the sink from breakfast. I ran hot water in the sink and washed them. I was going to use the dishwasher, but it was filled with dishes from a previous meal. I had to search drawers and cupboards to replace the dishes and silverware after drying them. I even replaced the items in the dishwasher.

After finishing, I wandered down the hall to the other bedrooms. It appeared that Rodney and Curtis shared a room. It was extremely cluttered, and it smelled like a locker room. If I had looked closer, I was sure I’d find dirty socks under the twin beds that had probably been tossed there months ago.

Posters of sports figures adorned the walls. One wall was filled with female athletes, most dressed in skimpy attire. There was also a desk with a laptop computer and numerous games. Most I had left at home. I hoped that one day, perhaps either Rodney or Curtis would ask me to play.

Across the hall was Lane’s room. It looked more like a girl’s room because it was filled with stuffed animals. A huge panda bear was sitting in one corner. There were also smaller teddy bears, tigers and dogs. Lying on his unmade bed was an old, tattered sock puppet. It appeared that he probably slept with it at night.

I didn’t look into my father and Karen’s bedroom. It just felt weird to imagine him sleeping with someone other than my mother. However, at home, I never thought about him and my mother sleeping together. I guess that is a thought most children try to avoid.

It was almost noon when I went into the family room. I turned on the television to a movie on HBO. I liked the big screen television. It sure was better to watch than the 32 inch screen in the living room at home.

At home. That’s a term I’m going to have to stop using. Right now, I have no home. Since my mother no longer wants me to live with her, then I guess I can no longer consider it home.

I feel like a stranger here. I hardly recognized Dad. If I had passed him on the street, I wouldn’t have known who he was. I’ve grown fond of Lane; but again, he is like a stranger. Karen seems nice, but I don’t feel like becoming close to her. Somehow I feel she should be an enemy, but she is too nice for me to consider that. I’ve only gotten a glance at Rodney and Curtis. They seemed like most of the boys at school I tried to avoid.

I fell asleep for a while. When I awoke, it was one o’clock. I had been here only a day, and I was already bored. I rose off the sofa, and I began picking up some of the empty soda cans and bags of potato chips. I found a Kirby vacuum cleaner inside a closet, and I vacuumed the carpet. A half hour later, the room was spotless. I then went into the laundry room, and I sorted the clothes and put a load in the washer. It was a chore I was used to doing when I lived at home with my mother. She usually came home exhausted, and I felt guilty having her do my laundry. I know she appreciated it, but she never said so. After doing it several years, she just took it for granted that I would do it.

I had no idea what time Lane got out of school, or I would have gone there and walked him home. My old school was dismissed at 2:45, but I didn’t want to walk there and have to wait. Instead, I went into the kitchen and looked in the refrigerator. I found a three pound package of ground beef. After searching the cupboards, I discovered a box of lasagna noodles. Luckily, there was also a couple of jars of spaghetti sauce, and parmesan cheese in the refrigerator. The only thing missing was an onion.

I was frying the ground beef in a skillet when Lane came bounding into the kitchen. He came up behind me, wrapped his arms around my waist and asked, “Whatcha doing?”

“Making lasagna,” I replied.

“Yummy,” he said with a grin. “I like lasagna.”

I pulled open a drawer, removed an apron and put it on him. “You can help me,” I said.

He broke out in a wide grin. “Okay,” he replied cheerfully. “What do you want me to do?” I handed him the spatula and told him to keep an eye on the ground beef, turning it occasionally. I watched him carefully to make sure he didn’t burn himself. While he did that, I put the noodles in a pot to boil.

We worked together well. He listened carefully to what I told him. He watched as I prepared the lasagna. Soon, I had him layering the pan. He kept looking up at me and grinning. “This is fun,” he said happily after we had finished and placed it in the oven. “What’s next?”

“We can set the dining room table,” I replied.

He gave me a surprised look. “We never eat at the table. Well, except Thanksgiving, and sometimes when it’s someone birthday.”

“Well,” I insisted, “We’re going to eat at the table tonight.” I started handing him plates, and he took them into the dining room. Several minutes later, the table was set for six people.

Three hours later, I discovered why they never ate dinner at the table. Karen arrived home around six. She was surprised that Lane and I had made dinner. She had brought home two boxes of chicken from KFC.

“I’m so sorry,” she apologized as she looked at the prepared table. “Lane should have told you we seldom eat as a family.”

I put my hand on his shoulder when he hung his head. Karen excused herself and disappeared into her bedroom. Lane and I ate dinner alone at the dining room table. He prepared his mother a plate and took it to her room. She returned later and praised us for preparing such a wonderful meal.

Curtis and Rodney came home around seven-thirty. They grabbed a box of chicken from the refrigerator and went to their bedroom. I didn’t see them anymore that night.

Dad arrived home a little after nine. Lane asked him if he wanted some lasagna, but he said he had eaten dinner with a client. He went into this bedroom, and never came out. Lane and I cleaned up the dining room and kitchen, and then we watched television until it was time for him to go to bed.